The dynamics at play in a Burke vs. Walker showdown are already compelling. On the left, a businesswoman who has stayed away from government jobs, save for her short stint as Commerce Secretary, who has the best education bike money can buy. On the right, a lifelong politician without the practical business experience Republicans typically celebrate in their candidates, who never got his college degree.
But Gov. Walker’s track record is one of resounding political and economic successes for Wisconsin. His reputation is so ironclad that his detractors look to the future to disparage him, now tearing him apart for not committing to serving a full term if re-elected. Republicans usually are so bad at playing politics, Democrats are aghast when someone with Mr. Walker’s savvy comes along and beats them while playing by his own rules.
This has left Ms. Burke in the uncomfortable position of balancing traditional progressive dogmas with her pragmatic experience, philosophies that are manifestly at odds.
She supports an increased minimum wage, which is a tool for social engineering, not impelling economic growth. She cannot simultaneously understand how to grow a company from $2 million in sales to $60 million and believe that an arbitrary $10.10 minimum wage for Wisconsin is good policy.
She says she would not have approved Act 10. After the calamitous failed recall debacle, the DPW would be loons to run a candidate blatantly in favor of it. Ms. Burke’s compromise would be to require employee contributions and maintain collective bargaining rights. This sounds good now, but certainly would not have been an option for a true progressive, especially had she been in Gov. Walker’s shoes in the same context.
A good businesswoman does not make for a good progressive. She’s just Democrat enough to be taken seriously by the base. That’s the reason for the OFA pros who were called in to make the case for her and guide Ms. Burke through the waters of Big League Politics. It has been the prerogative of her campaign from the start to design a candidate that tests well. Along every step, her personal story seems incongruent with the beliefs she’s now espousing, especially as a Democrat. In doing so, that strategy has taken hallmark causes, like repealing Act 10, off the table and out of discussion.
Enter Brett Hulsey.
Before getting a crack at Gov. Walker, he’ll need to beat Ms. Burke in a primary, but his announcement says nothing of her. Instead, he writes, “I would appreciate your vote in the Democratic primary in August and the general election in November. Sign up, volunteer and help me out.” Mr. Hulsey notes the Politifact Pants on Fire rating of some of the governor’s statements, failing to mention any of his Democrat opponent’s. His delusions extend to the tired left-wing tripe that increased government spending (they always call it “investments”) is the cure-all to an ailing economy. He promises to restore union rights, but doesn’t explicitly call for a repeal of Act 10. Perhaps that phrase doesn’t test well.
It took Jack Craver’s fawning coverage in The Capital Times to reveal how Mr. Hulsey feels about Ms. Burke:
“She’s just such a weak candidate,” he said. “She did not have spring training like the Brewers did. She’s playing more like the Bucks.”
That’s pretty limp, especially compared to the lame catchphrases he’s inanely assigned to Scott Walker’s imaginary failures as governor: the “reign of error” and “Walker Unfair Despair Act 10.”
The man is a kook, worshipping at the far-left, progressive altar of salvation through environmental conservation, with extensive credentials as a fringe green wingnut. His candidacy is a farce.
For a while, he’ll be an exciting option for other acolytes in the Progressive Church, those either bored by or unimpressed with what they’ve already learned about Mary Burke. Then, when he’s outspent and out advertised by the Burke Campaign in August, the Democrat faithful will rally behind their chosen leader.
So far, Ms. Burke has only targeted the governor for not creating enough jobs, ignoring that the first half of his term was embroiled in a recall. The worst thing for an economy is uncertainty; the second-worst thing is a Democrat in charge. Beyond that, as we’ve extensively dissected, her platform is one of high-minded platitudes and bored, tired, left-wing dogmas.
Mr. Hulsey is little more than a lightning rod to put things like collective bargaining rights back on the table in an attempt to inject them into the news cycle, without having to pressure Ms. Burke to talk about them. If her feet ever do get held to the fire by Mr. Hulsey, he can easily be dismissed by his Democrat peers as eccentric or goofy, or part of the party’s fringe that is regretfully tolerated but not ostracized.
Ms. Burke probably really isn’t enough of a Democrat to really placate Democrat voters, but she has the closest shot at winning in November, though she won’t. Mr. Hulsey is a Democrat’s dream candidate, but he’d be eviscerated in the general election. He’s not even taking himself seriously.
This could all be an elaborate plan orchestrated by the well-paid operatives running Ms. Burke’s campaign for governor. Or it could be a well-timed fluke that will reframe the terms of discussion to Ms. Burke’s favor. Either way, Mr. Hulsey’s candidacy is a win for the Democrat Party. Their primary will not be the kind of bloodbath that sees Democrats tear each other apart. It will be a Four Months Hate of Scott Walker, an opportunity to trumpet the kinds of credentials that have the ability to take the governor down.
Independent voters will be unimpressed. Any caterwauling against Scott Walker is now reserved for the purely partisan. Mr. Hulsey might excite other Democrats, but he will repel independent voters from taking him seriously, and by extension, others in his party. No Democrat is offering strategic vision for Wisconsin; Governor Walker has. He is accused now of setting a goal perhaps too ambitious in terms of job creation, but he has moved Wisconsin forward.
For the Democrats running for his job, his reputation is one that’s proving impossible to destroy.